Your Music and the Cloud in the Next Five Years
Amazon Cloud Drive
Amazon was the first big name to enter the cloud music game this year and Cloud Drive is exactly what it sounds like: a big chunk of server space for all your media that can be accessed from anywhere. Anyone can start off with 5 gigabytes of free storage easily upped to 20 GB for $20 a year, on up to 1,000 gigs for $1,000 a year. You can also buy a single MP3 album from Amazon and you'll automatically be upgraded to 20 gigs. Amazon doesn't offer unlimited streaming or any other free access to a huge library like Rdio and MOG, but it does allow storage of just about any kind of file and it syncs easily with Amazon's massive paid library, which is more than Google can say for its service. Cloud Drive is basically cheap file storage that's easy to use but comes with no security guarantees, sharing or syncing capability.
ABI's Markkanen says that approach makes sense for the company because a subscription service would cannibalize its music sales, but he has so far been underwhelmed by Amazon's offering - "this locker model is something that would have been quite revolutionary three years ago, but now in 2011 it's not that exciting anymore," he says.
Google Music Beta
Perhaps the biggest announcement from Google I/O last week, Music Beta, is currently a closed party - and since Google has yet to work out licensing deals with the record labels, it's also a bring-your-own affair. Music Beta is essentially the same concept as Cloud Drive, but with more free storage (once you've got an invite), up to 20,000 tracks. Google's user interface makes it easier to stream your music collection in more formats from home or a mobile device than does Amazon but is a little less versatile in terms of backing up other types of media. No official word on what pricing might be after the Beta, but it's worth heading over and requesting an invite to check out the party before the open bar ends.
"They surprised me," says Markkanen. "I would have thought since they're building it from scratch they would have gone for the on-demand side of things."
Aziz believes the strongest thing Google has going for it is potential integration with Google At Home, also announced last week - "How cool would it be to walk around the house and simply say out loud, "play the White Album"? Or to make verbal requests to the car radio. And with so many Android devices...."